A mystical murder story set to the rhythms of Inca ritual dancing, a tale of quotidian corruption in Equatorial Guinea, and a psychedelic musing on exile in outer space are among the stories in an eclectic new collection intended to showcase the best young writers of Spanish-language fiction.
Eleven years after publishing its first collection of the finest up-and-coming authors in Spanish, Granta magazine is releasing a second volume that brings together 25 writers aged under 35 and now at work on four continents.
The list includes 11 female writers and 14 male writers from Spain, Nicaragua, Cuba, Colombia, Uruguay, Peru, Mexico, Argentina, Equatorial Guinea, Chile, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica and Ecuador.
“We were looking for originality, for people who were doing things that were unique and who didn’t seem to be following a trend,” said Valerie Miles, who edited the collection and announced the 25 authors at the Instituto Cervantes in Madrid on Wednesday.
She called it “an extremely diverse list – much more than the first list, where there was a large amount of Spaniards and a large amount of Argentinians, and there were many more men than women.”
Miles said technology and the groundwork laid by the previous collection had allowed Granta to look beyond the major cities and publishing houses.
“There’s a whole, flourishing microcosm of independent editors working in small houses that are not only in the capital but in smaller towns,” she said.
“The outreach was easier and better, and of course the increasing digital world allowed us to get into these places. The result is that we were able to read more from out-of-the-way places.”
As well as containing works by authors of colour writing in Equatorial Guinea, Cuba and Colombia, the 2021 volume also reveals the extent to which writers in Central and South America are drawing on indigenous and native traditions.
The Ecuadorian author Mónica Ojeda writes of the Inti Raymi festival, an old Inca festival of the sun god where people dance to exhaustion. “She reflects that energetic dancing in the staccato language she uses in her piece. By the time you’re finished reading, you’re exhausted because you feel almost as if you’ve been dancing,” Miles said.
There were no Cubans on the 2010 list, but this time there are three: Carlos Manuel Álvarez, Dainerys Machado Vento and Eudris Planche Savón – a trio Miles describes as a breath of fresh air.
“They’re not similar, but there’s a Cubanness at the bottom of it that registers through the language and the way it’s used … It was fun to read them even though what they were writing about wasn’t any fun.”
Despite the geographical breadth of the project, which whittled 200 works down to the final 25, common themes cropped up. Many of the submissions were about disfranchised families and children fending for themselves; others were about power, its uses, and the corruption it brings. There were also common influences: the unlikely trio of Philip K Dick, Roberto Bolaño and Sylvia Plath.
“It’s unbelievable how many writers talked about reading Sylvia Plath – and I’m not just talking about the women; it’s also the men,” said Miles. “I think she really resonates. In some way, it’s as if Sylvia Plath is taking over from [JD] Salinger for the teenage angst, rite-of-passage thing, as if Esther Greenwood were taking over from Holden Caulfield now.”
Science fiction’s influence is evident, not least in the contribution by Mateo García Elizondo, a young Mexican writer blessed and cursed with being the grandson of two giants of Latin American letters: Colombia’s Gabriel García Márquez and Mexico’s Salvador Elizondo.
“The piece he wrote for this issue is about a man who gets thrown into space because instead of capital punishment, people are launched into space and left to live alone there until they die,” said Miles.
“It’s very Vonnegut and Philip K Dick. But there’s another mystical moment of epiphany where the person and the cosmos become one. After so much time alone looking out of a spacecraft, what else can happen?”
Granta’s best of young Spanish-language novelists
Andrea Abreu (Spain)
José Adiak Montoya (Nicaragua)
David Aliaga (Spain)
Carlos Manuel Álvarez (Cuba)
José Ardila (Colombia)
Gonzalo Baz (Uruguay)
Miluska Benavides (Peru)
Martín Felipe Castagnet (Argentina)
Andrea Chapela (Mexico)
Camila Fabbri (Argentina)
Paulina Flores (Mexico)
Carlos Fonseca (Costa Rica/Puerto Rico)
Mateo García Elizondo (Mexico)
Aura García-Junco (Mexico)
Munir Hachemi (Spain)
Dainerys Machado Vento (Cuba)
Estanislao Medina Huesca (Equatorial Guinea)
Cristina Morales (Spain)
Alejandro Morellón (Spain)
Michel Nieva (Argentina)
Mónica Ojeda (Ecuador)
Eudris Planche Savón (Cuba)
Irene Reyes-Noguerol (Spain)
Aniela Rodríguez (Mexico)
Diego Zuñiga (Chile)